What’s a Spaghetti Diagram?

A spaghetti diagram, often called a spaghetti plot, spaghetti chart, or spaghetti model, is a valuable tool to add to your Lean toolbox. Spaghetti diagrams are a component of Gemba walks and are a visual representation of flows in your facility. The goal of a spaghetti diagram is to make it easier for managers to identify resources wasted and processes that can be streamlined.

Before embarking on your Gemba walk, you will want to select a particular part of the process of the overall process of creating product; this could be a manufacturing process, administrative process, shipping process etc.

Start your spaghetti diagram with a map of your facility and decide what you will track first. You can track the flow and movements of an item, paper or an employee. Now, it’s time to observe; talk to employees working in the space, jot down processes and ask questions. Next, draw the route that the process takes. Remember to include every movement of the flow, your lines should look like cooked spaghetti noodles.

While observing, add some more detail to your diagram. Record who is involved in the process, how time is taken at each step, arrows to indicate the direction of the flow, and other information you find relevant.

When you’re finished, your map will probably resemble a plate of spaghetti, with curvy lines going every which way. These lines will highlight any extra motion or transportation taking place that could either be eliminated or streamlined.

Here are some helpful tips to help you while creating your spaghetti diagram:
• Use colored pencils to distinguish different motions and flows of the process
• Ask questions and listen carefully to workers on the factory floor, they see day-to-day operations and are the experts of their workstation
• Record even the smallest movements, they can add up quickly to a load of waste
• Don’t rush through the Gemba walk, you’ll probably be doing more stopping and recording than walking

And remember, all problems won’t get fixed after one Gemba walk!

Additional Resources